Twenty years ago, Sound Transit welcomed riders onboard the first streetcar system to be built anywhere in its urban tri-county jurisdiction: Tacoma Link.
Today, in the City of Destiny, that pioneering streetcar line finally doubled in length with the debut of revenue service on the Hilltop Link extension.
ST celebrated the ribbon-cutting with an hourlong program next to the Hilltop District station that included performances by TUPAC dancers and NW Sinfonietta. Speakers included Sound Transit CEO Julie Timm, United States Senator Maria Cantwell, United States Representative Marilyn Strickland, Tacoma Mayor Victoria Woodwards, and Deputy Mayor Kristina Walker, an ST boardmember.
The seven new stations make the T‑Line (the new name for Tacoma Link) a much more versatile system that provides connectivity between more places in the city. That was evident to those of us who joined Sound Transit staff on Wednesday for an enjoyable and informative preview ride along the entire alignment.
“The Hilltop extension is a major step toward creating a more connected Tacoma and region as we continue expanding our transit network,” said Sound Transit Board Chair and King County Executive Dow Constantine in a statement. “With this opening, riders will have even greater access to opportunities and the communities connected by this new service.”
“Tacoma and the Hilltop neighborhood is on the rise,” Senator Maria Cantwell said. “This is life-changing to an area where 27% of households don’t own a car.”
“If you are a student at Stadium High, or SOTA, or Evergreen, now you have another way to get to school. If you have an appointment at Tacoma General or St. Joe’s, you also have an easier way to get there. If you want to take your family to the stadium district, or down to Wright Park, or just have dinner in Hilltop or downtown — you now can take the T‑line.”
Cantwell’s office pointed out that she “helped secure $183.3 million in federal funding for the project, including $93.3 million in loans from the Department of Transportation (DOT) Transportation Infrastructure Finance and Innovation Act (TIFIA) program, and $75 million from the Capital Investment Grant (CIG) program. Federal funding covered over 64% of the total project cost.”
“Connecting our historic Stadium District, Wright Park, medical facilities downtown, and the Tacoma Dome, to the rest of our city and the broader region, these light rail stations represent our ongoing commitment to sustainability, equity, access and mobility for all,” said Sound Transit Board Member and Tacoma Deputy Mayor Kristina Walker. “Today is a big day for Tacoma.”
Sound Transit staff timed the ribbon cutting to occur just as the first train slated to carry passengers rolled into the Hilltop District Station from St. Joseph.
Videos of the festivities are below for those who couldn’t make it and would like to watch the speaking program or take in the expanded T‑Line.
The ribbon cutting
Watch the ribbon cutting:
Aerial view of trains rolling through Hilltop
Get a bird’s eye glimpse of the T‑Line in service:
Watch TUPAC dancers and NW Sinfonietta perform:
The speaking program
View the complete speaking program:
Congratulations to Sound Transit on today’s big milestone! It was a long journey from the groundbreaking to today’s ribbon cutting, but we got there.
How to ride the T‑Line
The T‑Line is operational seven days a week. At peak times, it arrives at twelve minute frequencies (Sound Transit promised ten minute peak frequencies, but concluded it couldn’t safely or feasibly deliver those at launch). Frequencies drop to every twenty minutes prior to 6:30 AM and after 8 PM on weekdays, but stay at twelve minutes for all weekend service. The T‑Line runs for about seventeen hours on weekdays, fifteen hours on Saturdays, and nine hours on Sundays.
While the T‑Line has historically been fare-free, that is no longer the case.
One-way fares are $2.00, regardless of distance traveled. Riders will have the best experience with an ORCA card. Those on low incomes are encouraged to apply for an ORCA LIFT card, which cuts the price of every ride in half.
Riding the T‑Line is simple: Head to any of its twelve stations, tap your ORCA card or buy a ticket from a kiosk, and walk on the train. Then, step off when you’ve reached your destination. All platforms have low floor boarding. Electronic signage and audio announcements on the train are provided to help with wayfinding.